Thy Father's Chair (NR)

Documentary 74 min. October 13, 2017
By Jordan Hoffman
This immersive, richly detailed snapshot of hoarders undergoing a mandated apartment cleaning is equal parts horror film and existential howl. We first meet Abraham (pronounced Avram), a defensive man who nervously stammers as workers in protective plastic toss junk from closets and vacuum up rodent droppings. He speaks in hushed tones about his irritable brother, Shraga. Thanks to smart editing, it's only after the 20-minute mark that we realize we've already seen him.

Avrama and Shraga are identical twins, and once that shock wears off, you can keep them straight by the shape of their beards. They are orthodox Jews who inherited their Brooklyn home when their parents died. (Let's call this Vey Gardens?) They sustain themselves off rent from an upstairs tenant, but he is refusing to pay unless the quagmire of kitty litter, old newspapers and sadness is swept away. Both brothers are perfectly self-aware. They would like their lives to change but are desperate for guidance and direction. Shraga has the added problem of alcoholism. The cleaning men and fly-on-the-wall camera crew are likely the first outsiders they've met in years, and the most heartbreaking thing here is seeing the brothers try to establish connections.

Thy Father's Chair is an extremely difficult film to watch. Not just because it is repulsive -- the eventual reveal of the toilet rivals Steven Spielberg's restraint with the shark in Jaws -- but because hoarderism is such a relatable type of madness. These are men literally trapped by their memories and immobilized by the concept of letting go. Directors Antonio Tibaldi and Àlex Lora could have made a film that gawked; instead this is a portrait of understanding.
Àlex Lora, Antonio Tibaldi Indie Strategy

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